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When and How to Return to Work After a Career Break

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Returning to the workforce after a career break can be daunting, especially if you have had significant time away. After seven years out to raise my daughters, I made the decision to get back out there and find employment; however, it was a decision that was not made lightly! It is a personal decision, and one that shouldn’t be rushed, but if you find yourself with that niggling desire to return, how do you prepare and dust off the skills from past roles? Finding work after a break needn’t cause anxiety. Instead, here are some of my tips to making a seamless transition back into the workforce.

Preparing for your return

Whether you’re returning from maternity / paternity leave or from a career vacation, be aware that a role may come up sooner than you think – it may even happen straight away! Ask yourself the question: “Am I ready to drop everything and go straight into work now?” If you find yourself questioning if it is the right time, then there is the answer – it’s probably too soon. The last thing you want is to land a job and wish it had been another year! In these cases, it may be worthwhile to put the decision on hold for a while, when the kids are a bit older and the whole process is much easier.

A schedule that works for you

If it’s time for a new chapter, going back to work after a career break means making some significant decisions. The first one is choosing an industry that supports work/life balance. More often than not, a typical 9 to 5 position is not a realistic option for returning mothers. Instead, tap into opportunities where the hours are more flexible or where remote working arrangements are possible. You should never have to apologise for staying home!

There are many organisations that give lip service to offering healthy work/life balance, but whether they actually follow this up with actions is another matter. Take time to find a business that will genuinely offer support and ticks all the boxes.

Sometimes running a home and work life can be like having two full time jobs, so be realistic when it comes to time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

Changing times

It’s undeniable. Technology is changing industries fast and is a burgeoning sector in itself. Because of this, one of the biggest obstacles candidates face when returning to the workforce is being left behind. The skills that were needed even just a few years ago may now have changed so it’s important to keep abreast of market trends and what has progressed. Undertaking a refresher course or seeking out further training will yield great rewards and is one of the things that will make returning to work easier.

Staying connected via LinkedIn or other social media platforms will also help keep you ahead of the curve in the long run. Subscribe to industry magazines, blogs and newsletters to further arm yourself with industry knowledge. 

Remember, it’s perfectly fine to turn down roles and wait for one that is right for your situation. However, if that perfect job hasn’t come along yet but you’re looking for a way to immerse yourself in the world of work, then there are a number of options that may work for you. Try taking a step back in responsibility from your previous level (prior to your career break) and work your way back up. Alternatively, you might want to consider temping or volunteering in the interim to ease yourself back into the work environment and get reconnected.

Final Thoughts

For those who are thinking of returning to work after a career break, the best piece of advice I can give is to find a balance that works for both you and your family. Plan in advance and research the businesses you are interested in. Reach out to your networks as well as relevant recruitment specialists. And above all, be proud of the time spent with your children! If you’ve experienced a similar situation, or are looking for support going back to work after a career break, I’d love to hear from you.